More creative opportunities and events which smash conventions

1-Nazanin - exploring identity through calligraphy and ink drawingAdding to last week’s post about opportunities, here’s another valuable offering from Blacktown Arts Centre. With funding from Blacktown Council and the NSW Government, the centre is offering six Creative Residencies in 2017 in the following categories –

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Residency $5000
  • Pat Parker Memorial Residency $5000
  • Performing Arts Residency $5000
  • Performing Arts Space Residency
  • Visual Arts Studio Residency
  • Without Borders (Accessible Arts) Residency $5000.

The residencies offer space for the creation of new work and mentoring opportunities for the further development of existing creative projects. Blacktown Arts Centre is recognised for its exploration of dynamic, culturally diverse work that reflects Blacktown, its history and its communities. Above is one of this year’s resident artists Nazanin Marashian combining calligraphy and ink drawing in her exploration of identity. Nazanin came to Australia from Iran as a young child when her family fled the Iran/Iraq war in the early 1980s. A great deal of her art work is influenced by the lingering images of war torn houses and streets and the stories from relatives who remained in Iran. BNazanin - drawing first dayelow, left, is a work from her first day of residency – as she “got a few different ideas flowing.

Central to Blacktown Arts Centre’s program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities drawing on issues of local and global significance. A free workshop to assist applicants will be conducted by award-winning author and long-time writing coach Janet Fennell.

Writing for Small Grants & Opportunities 
Saturday, 13 August | 10am – 4pm | Blacktown Arts Centre

Another will be conducted by Patricia Adjei from Viscopy to answer questions relating to copyright, licensing, fair use and moral rights. Patricia will also explain the Resale Royalty Scheme in relation to your practice, and in particular for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Viscopy Licensing & Copyright Law 
Saturday, 20 August | 2pm – 4pm | Blacktown Arts Centre

Applications close Wednesday, 9 September 2016. Blacktown Arts Centre.

Among the people who have made a major contribution to Blacktown Arts Centre’s performing arts program and simultaneously benefited from the centre’s support is Richard Petkovic. Richard is the founder and director of Sydney Sacred Music Festival now in its sixth year. In the course of his musical and regional networking during the last 20 years, Richard has met many highly skilled musicians – many of whom arrived in Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra - 6 of 14 membersAustralia as refugees. Two years ago, they launched Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra which combined an eclectic mix of cultural music from Mongolia, East Turkistan, Vietnam, China, Mexico and Indigenous Australia to create new Australian music that explores different cultures, faiths and genres.

“Featuring some of the best ‘world’ musicians in Sydney, SWMCO melds classical strings, Dervish rhythms, Latin Samba and intimate melodies to smash conservative music conventions and create a dynamic journey that changes the internal chemistry of the listener,” Richard says. Now some of these musicians are collaborating with others and leading visual and multimedia artists to create the spectacular Worlds Collide event on Saturday, September 3, as part of this year’s Sydney Sacred Music Festival.

william+barton+sacred+musicThe festival will be formally launched with The Gathering Ceremony at Marrong, Friday, September 2, at 2pm  (Prospect Hill) Pemulwuy. Featuring in the ceremony will be internationally renowned didjeridoo player, William Barton.

Marrong (Prospect Hill), was a place of Darug ceremony for thousands of years and the highest landmass in the Sydney Basin. It was from Marrong that indigenous warrior, Pemulwuy, observed the approaching devastation of Aboriginal land and led the resistance against the expanding colony. The Gathering Ceremony will bring together the local Aboriginal community to relaunch Marrong as a significant place of culture for Aboriginal people – a place of spirit and a place of the Crow (Pemulwuy’s totem).

The event kicks off a program that will continue until September 18 and incorporate a wide range of musical events in venues from Mona Vale to Campbelltown, Sydney CBD to the Blue Mountains. Program and bookings.

From Powerhouse Youth Theatre (PYT) comes this urgent invitation –

PYT - Tribunal 2016Don’t miss out — TRIBUNAL is selling fast!

Join Powerhouse Youth Theatre (PYT), Griffin Theatre Company and some of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists and cultural leaders to tell the parallel stories of Indigenous Australia and our treatment of newly arrived refugees in a performed conversation at the SBW Stables Theatre from August 12 to 20. LISTEN HERE to the cast talk to ABC Radio National about TRIBUNAL

TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW and are selling quickly. Book online HERE to avoid disappointment.


Flight from despair to hope, opportunity and creative engagement

UNHCR - RefugeesAccording to a report released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) last month, wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since UNHCR records began more than 65 years ago. The report, entitled Global Trends, found a total 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier.

Large numbers of people have fled Afghanistan and Somalia in recent decades and more recently, countries like Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine and Central America. Settlement solutions are becoming harder to find as countries close borders against an influx of distressed people and there is little sign of regional cooperation between countries that might receive refugees. Worldwide, Turkey is the biggest host country, with 2.5 million refugees. With nearly one refugee for every five citizens, Lebanon hosts more refugees compared to its population than any other country. In 2015 children made up 51 per cent of the world’s refugees. Many were separated from their parents or travelling alone.

Blog - PPM book coverAll too often fear is the constant companion of refugees until they find respite. Now, with increasing frequency, fear has taken hold of people in countries that might offer protection – fear of terrorism, fear of losing jobs to refugees, fear of strained health, housing and education resources, a loss of law and order. Australia swings between cycles of fear and cycles of generosity. Our constitution for the founding of Australia as a federation of states in 1901 was influenced by fear of foreigners and totally ignored Aboriginal people. It still has the racist statement that the Commonwealth has the power “to regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races . . .” Two years later, the White Australia Policy was a direct outcome. By contrast, multiculturalism as a concept was introduced during the years of the Whitlam Government in the early 1970s. Under the following government of Malcolm Fraser, Australia opened its doors to Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers, including those who arrived by boat. Associated stories appear in my book Passion Purpose Meaning – Arts Activism in Western Sydney and in this blog. They demonstrate repeatedly just how many migrants and refugees have gone on to become outstanding arts practitioners and community leaders. Research also shows that the economic costs of accepting migrants and refugees is far outweighed by the value of their ultimate contribution to society.

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC) is conducting a two day forum on Friday and Saturday, August 19 and 20 to explore the relationship between refugees and the arts. “Open to artists, performers, art therapists, educators, researchers, art workers and creative producers, the Arts and Refugees Forum also welcomes humanitarian and community development workers to share their experiences and discuss various aspects of artistic practice by, with and about refugees.” It is a free event that will provide a platform for greater networking and development opportunities. The forum will take place against a background of photo-media and video works made by local Sydney-based artists who are former refugees, current asylum seekers and first generation Australians whose families fled war to settle here.

CPAC - refugees - curiousworksBeyond Refuge: Citizens has been assembled by CuriousWorks, which describes it as “an exhibition that asserts the beautiful and fundamental rights of every human being to freedom and peace. It is also a cry to those who have lost their freedom, through the structures and exertions of power.” Image above: Soheil Ettehadolhagh, “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”  –  Báha’u’lláh universal peace, 2016. Photograph.

Both the forum and the exhibition take place in the context of a major exhibition, Refugees which brings together works by 22 world-renowned artists who share a refugee background. Important works by these high profile artists have never before been seen in western Sydney. The artists are Khadim Ali, Frank Auerbach, Christian Boltanski, Yosl Bergner, Judy Cassab, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Lucian Freud, Mona Hatoum, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Guo Jian, Anish Kapoor, Inge King, Dinh Q. Lê, Nalini Malani, Helmut Newton, Yoko Ono, Aida Tomescu, Danila Vassilieff, Ai Wei Wei, Ah Xian and Anne Zahalka.

CPAC is located in one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in Australia, with 40% of the population born overseas and over 150 languages spoken. The arts centre sees the exhibition as an opportunity for advocacy and empowerment of refugees in the local area, as a key to creating social change.

In the meantime, a yoHelen Boris - shards-life-poems-ung woman who arrived as a displaced person from Ukraine in 1949 and later settled with her husband in Seven Hills, is about to launch her first commercially published book. Helen Boris had her university studies in Kiev interrupted by the Soviet occupation and the Second World War and was never able to complete them. Despite the upheavals of terror under dictatorship and the death of family and friends, Helen never lost her love for literature and writing and her interest in sharing it with others. From her earliest days in Australia, she wrote poetry in English and her native Ukrainian. She became active in local chapters of organisations like the Fellowship of Australian Writers, conducted workshops with others like Ann Stewart Galwey to support local writers and helped their community publication. Next Saturday, at the age of 96, in frail health, but of very clear mind and with the support of the Ukrainian ambassador, she will launch her book of poems Shards of Life. You are invited to join them at the Ukrainian Hall, 59 – 63 Joseph St, Lidcombe, at 1pm. Shards of Life is a selection of Helen’s English language verse, through which she shares some fragments of her story, the “shards of her life”.

And thenSyd Sacred Music Fest 16 - Worlds Collide there’s Sydney Sacred Music Festival, now in its sixth year under the leadership of founder and director, Richard Petkovic. This year it begins on Friday, September 2 and continues across locations from Mona Vale to Campbelltown, Sydney CBD to the Blue Mountains, until Sunday, September 18. In the course of two decades, Richard has identified and come to know an extraordinary range of highly professional musicians, from many different cultures and faiths. Many were living in western Sydney following their escape from war torn countries. They have been working together with wonderfully enriching results.

This year, they will present a live multimedia performance of contemporary world and electronic dance music at Wentworth Street carpark in Parramatta’s CBD, on Saturday night, September 3 – Worlds Collide – Eight Storeys High, Seven Cultures, One Amazing New Sound. The rooftop, they say, “will be transformed into an artistic wonderland, featuring art installations by Khaled Sabasabi, Marian Abood and Ghasan Saaid, video projections, interactive dance workshops and the world premiere of the Arts NSW funded, Worlds Collide ensemble. Worlds Collide brings together the best world musicians in Sydney, photo above, and fuses the South Asian Underground beats of Coco Varma’s ‘Sitar Funk’, the acoustic world fusion of the Shohrat Tursun Trio; Latin music legend Victor Valdes; soaring vocals of Blue Mary’s Maria Mitar and the hip hop rhymes of Mt Druitt’s Esky the Emcee, all under the direction of music producer and composer Richard Petkovic (Cultural Arts Collective).”

Program details and bookings.

Ceaseless exploration on display at Penrith, Bankstown and throughout the region

Penrith R Gallery - David HainesBlue Mountains artists, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding are engaged in a ceaseless exploration which has no regard for boundaries between arts and sciences. In 2011, they won the Anne Landa award for video and new media arts at the Art Gallery of NSW. The outlands invited visitors to “take control and conduct their own voyage through an immersive digital world of forests, islands, and futuristic interior architecture.” Recently, under the title Energies: Haines & Hinterding, they exhibited at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Arts. There, a similar work invited viewers to explore a different mode of control of the spectacular giant images of Geology projected onto a wall. Other works connected with energies beyond the museum, like television signals or radio waves, while some explored the unseen energy of the occult.

Each artist has pursued their own independent research and experimentation, while collaborating on other projects. For almost a decade, David has been exploring aroma – “composing fragrances inspired by plants, the earth and the cosmos” – creating complex chemical formulas. Now he is one of four Sydney based artists including Tully Arnot, Salote Tawale and Genevieve Lown, who are participating in an exhibition Hot House at Penrith Regional Gallery. Inspired in part by the violets in the gallery’s heritage garden, David’s Violet Gas (Phantom Leaves), see photo above, permeates the atmosphere of the exhibition. It’s a playful exhibition with an audioguide giving insights into the artists’ work.

1-The Way_A4-page-001At Bankstown, another kind of exploration is having its third phase of presentation. First, it was Look the Other Way, then it was The Other Way and now it is The Way – the first two co-produced by Sydney Theatre Company and Bankstown Youth Development Service (BYDS). For more than 20 years BYDS’s mission statement and practice have been “To inspire local young artists and to deliver sustainable cultural programs that invigorate the local Bankstown community”. Through many of their projects, they work with local high school students and staff. BYDS director Tim Carroll says, “Produced by BYDS The Way explores the lives of families living in Bankstown. Over one day, follow people whose choices and decisions may have a far greater effect than they could ever have imagined…”

The Way is directed by Stefo Nantsou with the assistance of gifted professional performer and director Aanisa Vylet. Their previous work with local young people has produced rich insights, energetic and polished performances. The Way will be presented at Bankstown Arts Centre from October 1 to 10. For bookings and information click here.

Now in its second week of showings Urban Theatre Project’s new film One Day for Peace continues to be seen at sites around the region. Described as a film about faith and the everyday, One Day for Peace contains interviews with 27 different people who provide a microcosm of the immense diversity of cultures and religious faiths across western Sydney. Included are people of Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, Jain, Christian, Baha’i, Buddhist faiths, Aboriginal spirituality and more. Each gives a description of their individual practice, sometimes with touches of humour, sometimes with poignancy and always with honesty.

UTP - One Day for Peace - ParraOutside Parramatta Town Hall last night, a panel led by ABC broadcaster Geraldine Doogue discussed their individual responses to the film and some of the issues raised. Maha Abdo, Dr. John Rees, Professor James Arvanitakis participated with the film’s director Rosie Dennis. Each agreed they felt a sense of quiet optimism and often a wish to know more about the individuals’ lives. Rosie’s primary intention has been to start a widespread conversation about faith, culture and diversity. She wants to encourage people to recognise the nuances of faith and culture within the community and avoid the constant simplistic “them and us” delivered by the media. She mentioned an audience member at Blacktown, who had assumed every man with a beard and headdress was Muslim and had little idea of other religions.

James described students who struggle to find the words needed to articulate thoughts, beliefs, ideas and questions. His academic area is management and he doesn’t consider himself a religious man, but he recognises the need across many fields. For Maha of the Muslim Women’s Association, she agrees and finds encouragement in the demonstration of diverse individual experience. Since 9/11, young Muslims in Australia have been subject to all sorts of abuses and exclusions and little effort to understand their experiences. They can be left with a sense of isolation and disconnection. Nonetheless, in response to a question from Geraldine, she sees glimpses of an Australian Muslim identity emerging, which will be distinct in the way that Indonesian Muslims distinguish themselves from Arabic Muslims.

All acknowledged the role of culture in the interpretation and experience of faith and John emphasised the importance of this understanding in Australia’s growing relationship with its south east Asian neighbours. Even though people can be very critical of the faith and culture in which they may have been brought up, Geraldine considers their impact in giving a sense of identity and being grounded is deeply significant. While the future of the film is not yet clear, there was general agreement that it should be shown widely and especially in schools. Despite the freezing wind, passers by were happy to sit down and watch. Two young men came and sat on either side of me, introducing themselves to me and each other as Faroz and Nabil. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, assisted by the provision of free hot drinks and snacks.

There’s still time to catch a full screening at:
Auburn Central, Wednesday 23 Sept, 6:30pm
Blacktown Train Station, Thursday 24 Sept, 6:30pm
Blacktown Train Station, Saturday 26 Sept, 6pm (additional screening)
Canley Vale Heights, Saturday 26 Sept, 6:30pm
Cabramatta Moon Festival, Sunday 27 Sept, 7pm
More info on locations can be found here.

Multi-faith film projects “One Day for Peace” across multiple sites

UTP - One Day for Peace - 3It was an act of faith that launched Urban Theatre Projects‘ crowd funding campaign for their second documentary film One Day for Peace. They had already won a Western Sydney Arts Initiative grant funded by the Crown Resorts Foundation and Packer Family Foundation, but they needed a further $15,000. They began 22 days of filming, just as they launched their Pozible campaign. As filming finished on July 21, 76 supporters helped them reach their target. It was a great achievement and one warmly acknowledged by Rosie Dennis, UTP’s artistic director and the film’s director.

Just as this blog has grown out of our daily experience of western Sydney as a frontier society where were “working out the multicultural project day by day”, Rosie says, “One Day For Peace takes us on a journey across the suburbs of western Sydney to ask: what do you believe? We see everyday ritual combine with reflections on humanity, impermanence and social justice. An epic undertaking, One Day For Peace wrestles with some big (and not so big) questions inside homes, prayer houses and from the back seat of a taxi.

UTP - One Day for Peace - 1 “During the making of One Day For Peace, Urban Theatre Projects collaborated with dozens of people of different faiths, beliefs and cultural backgrounds. The film aims to provide viewers with a deeper understanding about the role of faith as something greater than the individual, and look to the importance of belief in people’s daily lives. The work was also designed to be a compelling counterpoint to the perceived differences between cultures and religions, which are often inflated by the media.”

Exploration of difference, whether it be cultural, religious, art form or experience has long been a theme of arts projects and programs in western Sydney. It allows the opening up of dialogue between groups, the acceptance and understanding of difference and the discovery of commonalities. Just like One Day for Peace, it leads to opportunities for creative collaborations and a sharing of vision and inspiration. This is very much the theme of Sydney Sacred Music Festival, opening September 5, and I’m guessing, PYT’s Jump First, Ask Later, launched today at Fairfield. I’m looking forward to seeing it on Saturday.

UTP - One Day for Peace - 2One Day for Peace will be screened over two weeks in high pedestrian traffic locations across Western Sydney from 14–27 September, with the video work to be projected onto buildings, screens and in train stations in Auburn, Bankstown, Blacktown, Canley Heights, Liverpool, Mt Druitt and Parramatta. Click here for location details and times.